King's class tells as Wolves go second

Warrington 46 Crusaders 12
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The Independent Online

Warrington moved into second place in Super League, completely overwhelming the early resistance of the competition's newest side. Matt King was the player Crusaders could not handle as he claimed two of Warrington's five tries down a productive right-hand channel and he could easily have had a couple more.

Gareth Thomas, an equally physically imposing player and the story of the week in north Wales, chose to stay in the south, preparing for his first week of rugby league training, which starts today. Had the former British Lions captain been at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, he would have seen many of the qualities to aspire for, as well as some of the pitfalls he needs to avoid.

Thomas would have also noticed that there is little wrong with his new team-mates' spirit, especially when they twice took the lead in the first half. Mark Bryan got their first try, from a clever pass by Peter Lupton and, after an equaliser from King, they hit the front again with a typically precise kick from Michael Witt for Lincoln Withers.

Warrington, without both their first-choice half-backs, Lee Briers and Richie Myler, were worried by the way the Welsh side were dictating the tempo, as their coach, Tony Smith, admitted afterwards. But those concerns largely evaporated in the three minutes before half-time.

Simon Grix's try had already brought the Wolves level, but they did not look remotely comfortable until King got his second and then helped set up Ben Westwood immediately before the break.

The game was effectively over as a contest when Westwood, exploiting the same weakness in the Crusaders' defence, went over again, straight after the first of two second-half brawls. Michael Monaghan was responsible for starting and finishing the next try, putting Warrington on the front foot with a 40/20 kick and then darting over from dummy-half through a distinctly weary rearguard.

After a slightly bigger set-to, Warrington were awarded a penalty that looked as though it could have gone either way and the ball went along the line for King to release Chris Hicks.

David Solomona had the last word in what was now a dominant Warrington display, although the Crusaders coach, Brian Noble, was able to reflect with some justification that "the effort was there, but we need to direct it better."

Whether Thomas will help appreciably in that direction remains to be seen, but one factor worth celebrating was that there were 500 or 600 Welsh fans behind the sticks. The game is already on its way to capturing the imagination in the unlikely setting of Wrexham.

Warrington: Riley; Hicks, Bridge, Atkins, King; Grix, Monaghan; Morley, Higham, Carvell, L Anderson, Westwood, Harrison. Substitutes used: Wood, Solomona, V Anderson, Williams.

Crusaders: Kear; Youngquest, Dyer, Mellars, Raynor; Lupton, Witt; O'Hara, Withers, Bryant, Chan, Hauraki, Trimarchi. Substitutes used: White, Peek, Winterstein, Thackray.

Referee: J Child (Dewsbury).